27 March 2014

OOAK Spring 2014 & Why I'm the WORST

First, a note about why I'm the worst (and I am, folks: the absolute PITS):

Picture it: December, 2013. The One of a Kind Christmas Craft Show back in town for two weeks, jam-packed with fabulous artists, beautiful and unique products, and amazing gift ideas for the holiday season. Me, intrepid blogger, making the rounds, oohing and ahhing and generally admiring the merchandise, introducing myself and the Money Pit, snapping photos like crazy and MAKING PROMISES I FULLY INTENDED TO KEEP and then DIDN'T.

For the first time in the history of ever, I arrived home from the OOAK show, downloaded my photos onto my laptop... AND DECIDED I'D WRITE THE POST LATER. And as we all know, later - especially around the holidays - never happens. I didn't write the post. Daryn has long since thrown out all the business cards, and I'm intimidated by the prospect of trying to sort through the photos and guess about which shot belonged to which vendor. I'm wracked - actually wracked - with guilt, so much so that I considered not attending the media preview for the spring show, such is my shame.

Thus, I. AM. THE. WORST. And I'm sorry.

But in an attempt to redeem myself, I DID attend the opening day media preview, and I outlined the arc of my post IN ADVANCE (so I'd have a better, and more directed idea, of what I was looking for), and I downloaded the pics, edited them and wrote this post IMMEDIATELY upon arriving home. Acceptable restitution? Especially if I promise to write a OOAK Christmas Show better-late-than-never-(maybe) post? You decide.

But let's celebrate the show at hand, shall we?





(well, well, Radiant Orchid. So we meet again.)

We can agree my love for the OOAK shows is no big secret: you can read about it here and here and here if you disagree. It's love to the max: I {heart} OOAK times a bajillion. We're kind of a couple. A handmade-in-the-stars kind of couple. Maybe it's all the fairy lights and glitter and shiny things... I don't know. How can you explain love?

The One of a Kind Spring 2014 Show (#ooaks14, if you'd like to tweet and Facebook the crap out of it, and really: who doesn't?) was top notch this year; an embarrassment of creative riches. I have a boatload of must-visit artisans I want to share with you, which I've neatly divided into five individual categories (whoa! is that a little OCD coming to the forefront? maybe... there's much you don't know about me, people. much.)

Anyhoodle, let's cut the chitchat and jump right into the category that's closest to everybody's heart, the raison d'etre for events like these: MY WISH LIST. Do I need to spell it out for you? These are the things I want. Take note, family. I have a birthday coming up.

TRICIA O | BOOTH F-03


MISSY INDUSTRY | BOOTH P-26


ATELIER TREMA | BOOTH J-12


JACQUELINE POIRIER (resident artist at the Ritz Carlton, y'all) | BOOTH A-38


space 
All of it. Every last bit. Which makes me greedy but also very, very easy to buy for.

Also, this little lighting vignette at Missy Industry's booth caught my eye.



So gorgeous, right??! I know. I died.

One thing that OOAK always does amazingly right is market up-and-coming talents. I have my tried-and-true favourites, of course, but it's particularly exciting to hit up all the NEW ARTISTS to see what they're about. This season appears to be a banner one; I narrowed my top picks down to seven, but I could have easily doubled it and still not captured the full extent of awesomesauciness. But I won't blabber on about it... have a look for yourself.

MINI-LOOP | BOOTH O-25


SOPHIA SAUNDERS | BOOTH P-14


COLLEEN McCARTEN | BOOTH K-33


MILO & BEN | BOOTH N-20


HEN JEWELRY | BOOTH A-11


VERGER CHAMPETRE | BOOTH B-47


JACQUELINE POIRIER


space 
Honestly, so great.

I was also surprised - and delighted - to note how many Milton, Ontario (read: my 'hood!) artists were in attendance. Milton represent, yo!

ALL FIRED UP! | BOOTH H-50


AREN'T YOU FANCY! | BOOTH J-20 (O)


BUBBLEBAKER | BOOTH K-40


BRIANNA'S ARTWORK | BOOTH


MILO & BEN


space
They're kind of awesome. You should check them out.

I think I'll stop here and save the final two categories - my fave booth design, and OOAK theme - for another post. Lets me spread the love over a few days and saves you guys from slogging through a 5,000-word post!

In the meantime, whether you're a veteran show-goer (I first spelled that "shower" and then "show-er" but it didn't feel right) or a newbie, get your butt out to OOAK this weekend!! And don't forget to bring your wallet. If you don't find at least one item that just needs to come home with you, I'll eat my hat.*

Thanks all around to the OOAK team for inviting me to the media preview: much appreciated! And apologies again for being the worst blogger ever. I'm fixing that. *Toot sweet*

*Kidding - my hats are filthy and that would be disgusting. Instead of "hat" let's say "Timbits" and then it's win-win.
   

25 March 2014

Foodie Tuesday | Lamb & Lentil Stew

Hey, remember that time when I said we had a strict No-Cooking-Of-Lamb-In-This-House-At All-Ever policy here at the Money Pit?

And then that other time when I said I was going to kick my kitchen's ass and push the boundaries a little bit?

Yeah. So that. Turns out that because I love my husband, and because I've made a new year's resolution that I'm determined to keep, AND because I stumbled across a lonely little leg of lamb in the freezer (how did that get there? a gift? from someone who doesn't like me very much?), I accidentally-on-purpose broke my own rule and Cooked-Lamb-In-This-House.

I still can't bring myself to munch on Mary's woolly barnyard friend, but Daryn says this stew is outstanding and since he's our resident lamb aficionado (and very trustworthy person all around), you can take his opinion as fact. (sidebar: even the Boy likes it, so clearly it's a winner.)

Sure looks pretty good, doesn't it? Wins points with me just for being good-looking.



LAMB & LENTIL STEW
Preparation: 25 minutes | Cooking Time: 4-6 hours | Serves: 6
    
Ingredients:
Spice mix
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp. chili flakes
   
Stew
  • 1 lb. boneless leg of lamb
  • 1 large onion, medium diced (approximately 3 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups carrot, 1/4-inch dice (1 extra large or 2 medium carrots)
  • 1 1/2 cups celery, 1/2-inch dice (3-4 large stalks)
  • 2 cups green beans, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated (use a piece that is roughly 1 inch long by a 1/2 inch in diameter)
  • zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 3/4 tsp. coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
      
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
  • chopped cilantro, to garnish
   
Liquid
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • juice of 1/2 large lemon (roughly 2 tbsp.)
         
Cooking Directions:
  1. Combine spice mix in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk to blend.
      
  2. Trim the lamb of as much fat and connective tissue as possible, then cut into 2-inch chunks. Toss the lamb pieces in the spice mix until meat is completely coated and there are no spices left in the bowl.
      
  3. Lightly grease a 6-quart crock pot with olive oil. Spread the spiced lamb in a single layer on the bottom. Top with chopped vegetables, garlic, lemon zest and ginger.
      
  4. In a 4-cup measuring cup or small bowl, combine the 'liquid' ingredients: broth, tomatoes, lentils and lemon juice. Stir to thoroughly combine, then pour over vegetables/meat.
      
  5. IMPORTANT NOTE: You are going to commit a cardinal sin of crockpot cookery: you are going to take the lid off... and stir it.... repeatedly. Every hour or so, pop the lid off and give it a deep stir. The lentils need to be regularly mixed into the liquid in order to cook through evenly. Hold your breath and go for it.
      
  6. Cook on high for 4 to 6 hours, until the lamb is tender and lentils + vegetables are cooked through. If the mixture becomes too thick, feel free to add a little broth or extra tomato to loosen it up. It should mostly closely resemble "stewp" when finished cooking - a consistency halfway between soup and stew.
       
  7. Stir in yogurt or sour cream until fully blended. Serve straight from the slow cooker on a bed of basmati or jasmine rice (or, you know, Minute Rice), topped with chopped cilantro and paired with warm, buttered pitas.

If Daryn is to be believed (and I assure you he can be), this stewp is mmmm-mmmm good. Lamb lovers? You're welcome.


NOTES: ONE-POT-WONDER | GLUTEN FREE | EASY
     space
 
{adapted from "Spiced Lamb & Red Lentils" found in Kitchen Classics: Slow Cookers}
  

20 March 2014

Zoo Diaries

YAY! More bragging about Arizona photos! I knew you'd be excited.

On our last day in Phoenix we ventured out to Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium, a lovely little zoo just outside Sun City West (where we were staying). Unlike the Toronto Zoo and similar, WW's footprint is relatively small and compact, which made it an easy walkabout even for tuckered travelers like ourselves. It combines both a traditional zoo and an extensive aquarium, which had the Girl in particular in a tizzy. She luuuuurves marine life and basically skipped her way through each and every pavilion.

The best feature of WW was our proximity to the animals. Unlike in larger zoos where the objects of our admiration hang out in their vast enclosures nearly out of eyesight, smaller habitats make the animals much more accessible. Which brings me to another amazing aspect of WW: in spite of smaller homes, none of the animals appeared distressed or anxious in their cages or pens. So many times I've been to zoos where the animals - particularly the large cats, but also bears, elephants and various plains dwellers - pace back and forth at the edge of their enclosures, panting and mewling. They're obviously unhappy, and it's incredibly sad to see.

The WW inhabitants, in contrast, were calm, relaxed and appeared contented. They were also very engaged - clearly the zoo staff take considerable time and effort to foster relationships with their charges, and a great number of them not only were comfortable with human interaction, they sought it out.

Take, for example, this adorableness:



Why, is that my kid handing a little monkey a water-covered leaf? Which it totally took from her hand, licked all the water off, then held its paw out for another?

Why yes. Yes it is.

Now before everybody starts freaking out about giving the animals things to eat/drink and how it's bad for them and dangerous for their health and ours, and generally sets a bad example: I agree with you. To a point. I saw kids at that zoo trying to feed cotton candy to a red macaw, peanuts to an ostrich and dropping wild cherry icee into the camel enclosure (as if a camel would be caught dead eating a wild cherry icee.) I objected to all of it (and in fact, stepped in on behalf of the macaw, who was seriously considering the offer.)

In this case, however, the water was bottled - therefore sterilized - and was delivered via a native plant leaf, so there was very little human-to-primate cross-contamination. Also a zookeeper who happened to be nearby did not object to the sharing, which says a lot because they were militant about policing visitor behaviour otherwise (they were NOT happy about the peanuts et al.) So it might not have been the best idea, but it was damn adorable.

Anyway, our experience with the animals was fantastically up close and personal.

As in, UP CLOSE...



and PERSONAL.



Feeding a giraffe (zoo-approved food)? Yup. No biggie.

We cozied up closer to some of our favourite wildlife than we ever have before, and the kids loved every. single. minute.









In some areas the enclosures weren't even enclosed, per se. The spider monkeys inhabited a small, lush little island surrounded by a shallow moat, which served as the barrier between them and the zoo visitors that the monkeys had no interest in breaching. I can't tell you how cool it was to sit and watch them play and cuddle and groom in the open air, without any bars or wires between us.




Monkeys are kind of our favourite. Is it obvious?

And when I say "close" you might have thought I meant "very near." In fact, I mean SUPER-close. As in: petting stingrays like kittens was just another days work in our book.



My favourite photo of all perfectly encapsulates our experience: the Girl, totally still after a long, sunny day, completely engrossed watching the shark tank. That's the universal sign of "one happy kid" right there.



PS- You might be wondering if the Boy was with us at all during this outing. He was. But he's a teenager, with teenage peculiarities, and as such was not inclined to allow me to photograph him. For the record, he participated AND had a good time.
 

18 March 2014

Foodie Tuesday | Pork Carnitas

Daryn and I are big, big fans of Mexican fast food. BIG fans.

I don't mean Taco Bell... I'm the only one stupid brave enough to make the occasional run for the border (and then I come running right back.) Daryn won't touch the stuff.

We go a little more "high-brow" if that's a term you can use in reference to Mexican fast food. Bursting-at-the-seams burritos from Mucho Burrito are the BOMB; the pork carnitas is our favourite.

The challenge with all restaurant food, however, is that we don't know - and therefore can't control - the nutritional content of what we're consuming. It tastes delicious, but is it good for us?

(Hint: not even a little bit.)

With this in mind I decided to embark on a little research. My goal: to recreate our favourite restaurant recipes, right here in our own kitchen.

Not every experiment has been a success; it's a project rife with trial and error. But when I hit upon this recipe from Cooking Light, I knew we had a winner. I've modified the recipe a little bit (adding extra cumin and lime juice) and I used three 1lb. pork roasts instead of one 3lb. roast. It worked out just fine.


PORK CARNITAS
Preparation: 10 minutes | Cooking Time: 40 minutes | Serves: 6-8
    
Ingredients:
  • 1 3lb boneless pork shoulder, trimmed
  • 6 large (10 medium) garlic cloves, quartered
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 chipotle chiles canned in adobo sauce, roughly chopped
    (you can find these at your local grocery store, in the taco/Mexican section)
  
Garnishes:
  • wheat or corn tortillas
  • black beans
  • onion, diced
  • fresh or bottled salsa
  • guacamole
  • grated cheddar cheese
  • fresh cilantro
  • lime wedges
    
Cooking Directions:
  1. Trim any extra fat from the pork roast. Make random, inch-deep slits in the meat. Stuff slits with garlic quarters. Place any remaining quarters on the bottom of a 3 1/2-quart crockpot.
       
  2. Combine cumin, oregano, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Sprinkled roast on all sides with spice mixture, and place roast in crockpot. Sprinkle any remaining spice mixture on top.
      
  3. Combine juices and chiles in a separate bowl. Whisk until fully blended, then pour over pork. Cover and cook on LOW heat for 8 hours or until fall-apart tender.
      
  4. Remove pork from slow cooker with a large slotted spoon (be careful; it will fall apart on contact.) Shred meat with two forks, then return to cooking liquid and stir to combine.
      
  5. Serve 2 scoops of meat mixture (or as much you like!) in a tortilla, and garnish with your toppings of choice. My fave is fresh salsa, guacamole, ranch dressing, cheese and a squeeze of lime juice. Oh dear gawwwwd, it's delicious.

Oh holy cow, you guys, this stuff is good. Sooooo good.

Our feelings about take-out will never be the same.

Notes: easy | gluten free | freezer-friendly

   

17 March 2014

We're Baaa-aack!

{warning! warning! this post is photo-heavy. if 1000 (rough estimate) pictures of rocks'n'stuff isn't your jam, maybe come back tomorrow}


Hey, y'aaaaall!

We're back home, safe and sound, relaxed and in fighting shape after an AWSMAZING trip to Arizona over March break.

Yeah, that's right: A-R-I-Z-O-N-A: mecca of sunshine, dry heat, colour, cacti, light and natural wonders. It was... incredible. Amazing. At times poignant, at other times queasy. Inspiring. Fascinating. Absolutely freaking fantastic.

We couldn't have asked for a more wonderful - or wondrous - vacation.

So if you've never been to Arizona (which none of us had, before last week), it's difficult to describe. How to accurately convey the vastness, the emptiness, the sense of space? The colour, the vibrancy, the endless sky? The prosperity, the poverty, or the incredible, ever-changing palette?

It's impossible - truly impossible. But you know me: I'm always game to try.

Our three-day road trip through the desert brought us first to Sedona, land of the red rock. We stepped out at Cathedral Rock and our jaws literally dropped to our knees. The kids have never seen anything even remotely mountain-ish (the Escarpment, while impressive and lovely to look at it, is basically a pimple on our landscape in comparison. No offense, Escarpment.) so they were suitably impressed. Daryn and I were gobsmacked by the colour: blue-blue sky, red-red rock. So gorgeous is made our eyes hurt.

The four of us took a short hike up the rock, then split up at the first check point. Since breaking my leg a few years back I don't really trust my ankle on steep climbs, and the rock dust was as slippery as talcum powder. When the boys wanted to climb further, the Girl and I opted to stay below, smile, wave and take photos.






See those two teeny-tiny figures I've circled in the centre of the photo above? Yeah, those are my men. Just to give you an idea of scale and why the Kilfoyle chickadees opted out of the climb. (No, no, elite athlete: you and your intrepid adventurer father go on ahead. Seriously, we'll wait here.)

Next we visited the Chapel of the Holy Cross, an historical church perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Sedona red rocks. Stupidly I didn't take a photo from the base of the rock (which would have been arguably the most sensible - and photogenic - place to snap a shot) but I like to think the 65 photos I took from inside make up for it.



Then obviously we spent a half-day touring the most famous attraction Arizona has to offer: the "Big One," the Grand Canyon. In the immortal words of the Girl, it was "Grand. And canyon-y."

Self-evident, or deeply insightful? You be the judge.







The colours, you guys. Oh! the colours. I've never seen anything like them. I can see where artists find this landscape so inspiring - and so impossible to capture.

What was also impossible to capture was the sound. It was quite windy and brisk during our rim walk, and the sound of the wind whistling through the canyon and gusting up the peaks was so beautiful: eerie, thunderous, lonely. It drowned out everything else; when the wind blew it felt like you were the only person in the world on that ledge. It gives me shivers still.

Along the way we stopped at the Desert View Watchtower.



Views of the canyon from the tower are impressive, but it was the views inside the tower that really blew my mind.




The attention to detail was spectacular, right down to the antiqued telescopes and the leather binding on the handrail. Pure aesthete's heaven.

Moving on through the Painted Desert, we were treated to a kaleidoscope of colour shifting from soft pink, dusty rose, mauve, lavender and plum to silver, grey, tan, buff, olive, mint and charcoal.



Next came one of the true highlights of the trip: the Petrified Forest. If you've never heard of it, you might think it's just a bunch of scared trees hanging out together in a field (bad-dad-humour: yukyukyuk). It's not. What it IS is miles and miles of ancient trees that washed down a riverbed and were buried in sediment. Over time the sediment settled into the wood causing chemical reactions at a cellular level, inside which crystals formed. Basically, it's prehistoric logs that have turned, over time, into stone. Solid, sometimes semi-precious, stone.

It was PHENOMENAL.

I brought very few souvenirs home (excluding a freaking boatload of new clothes) but a beautiful piece of petrified wood is sitting in pride of place on our mantel.







Mind = BLOWN.

Our last view of the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert was this beautiful vista.




It's impossible not to love this place.

We capped off the road-trip portion of our vacation with a quick trip to Montezuma's Castle. If you've never been (or heard of it, as I hadn't), it's a perfectly preserved cliff-dwelling village built by the Sinagua tribe. It's a remarkable feat of ingenuity and engineering.





I have a million* more photos, stories and observations to share, but I've probably overloaded you enough for one day. Later this week I'll share some photos of the most fab zoo we've ever been to, and regale you with tales of eye injuries, lizard-hunting and monkey business (and that's just what the Girl got up to!)

xo
April

*kidding -- only a thousand more.